Smash That Mirror!

Do you obsess over selfies and photos and the image that stares back at you when you use the bathroom? Or maybe it’s the opposite… you never take selfies, make sure you’re the one holding the camera for group shots and you look as little as possible at any mirror you pass.

We want love. There’s no denying it.

And those who are beautiful get love – that’s the message I’ve been soaking in since I was a girl as little as the one in the photo at the start of this post.

That’s why, when I came across this paragraph in Shannon Popkin’s book Comparison Girl, I was kind of surprised.

“… God, who loves me, uses things like group photos to develop my humility. Each time I’m confronted with flaws in a photo, in the mirror, or on the scale, it’s a new opportunity to humble myself and say, “God, I trust you. You see me as your treasure, and I trust your eyes more than mine or anyone else’s.”

I assumed that the answer to my insecurity would be LOVE. God’s love. I expected the author to reassure me by underscoring God’s love for me. Instead, I was hit hard by the line: God, I trust you.

She’s so right. For me, it’s not about doubting God’s love for me. It’s fear about everything else. Will other people despise or overlook me as I age? What are the implications of wrinkles and age spots and scars and other flaws in a world of you-have-value-if-you-look-good?

God, I trust you.

When you look at yourself in a photo or in the mirror, are you like me? Do fears… some loud and some subtle, stir in your mind?

This week, when that happens, take a deep breath, quiet your soul, and say: God, I trust you.


BONUS – TRUE STORY


Have you ever done something ridiculous to avoid being seen in a less than ideal state? I have.

I was fifteen and fed up with hanging around high school after classes – every day we had to wait about forty minutes before the school buses showed up. One day, last class was cancelled and I decided I was NOT going to stick around for two hours. I had legs. I would walk home.

I walked down rural roads for about an hour, then entered suburbia and made my way past countless homes. My hair was thoroughly windblown, my skin sunburned. I felt exhausted and I needed a bathroom.

Mom worked at a church on my route, so I snuck into this familiar building to use the facilities. Mom wasn’t there and this was way before cell phones. I couldn’t call for a ride. Still, I knew the pastor whose car sat out front and I figured he could drive me the rest of the way home. I was SO TIRED. I’d been walking for about two hours.

When I saw myself in the mirror, I changed my mind. I looked like a blond hurricane. Rather than let anyone see me like that, I walked another hour.

Three hours.

11.6 kilometres.

I could have allowed a willing soul to rescue me, save me some trouble… but pride and insecurity drove me to keep going on my own. Avoid people. Refuse help.

Vanity.

Fear.

I chuckle now and shake my head. I’d never do something like that now. And neither would you. We’re more mature than that!

Aren’t we?


Daring to Hope

“How do you get up day after day to face a world of brokenness and hurt and failure? You murmur the question and you hope that no one hears you: Is God really good, does He really see me…?”

Katie Davis Majors asks hard questions in her book, Daring to Hope. It’s not a new title, but it’s one of my favourites, and I want to share a few thoughts from it with you today.

I think we all could tell stories about ways life didn’t go how we wanted it to, how we begged God to do things our way, not His. Can we watch life crumble and still believe?

Honesty can be so healing. Katie writes of a time when life went sideways for her, when the happy ending she wanted is not what she was given. She says, “Everywhere I looked, suffering abounded. This realization left me with two explanations: either God is not actually who He says He is, or He is and I needed to relearn how to know Him even in hardship.”

Katie takes her readers on a journey as she does just that. She relearns how to know God, even in hardship.

  • She testifies each day about who she knows God to be, even in the midst of disappointment.
  • She sees how the glimpse we get of God’s face during times of pain is up close and intimate. It changes us.
  • She embraces God’s presence with her in the story, in spite of the not-happy ending.

It can be hard to acknowledge pain and disillusionment in our lives, to read about it in someone else’s life, but I love Katie’s book. I love how I hear echoes, in her words, of my own questions and fears and hopes. I love that, in spite of the struggle, her spirit stays healthy.

  • She knows God does not abandon us.
  • She knows we are called to surrender control.
  • She knows that He will heal our wounds, if not in this life, then in the next one.

Love can be messy.

Pain can be a gateway to deeper intimacy.

Our God is good. He isn’t done with us. He holds us through it all. He pulls us close. He never turns away.

We Love You

Yesterday I went to a farm store for carrots and there were so many tulip bouquets at the checkout, a rustic interior now seemed bohemian. What is the appropriate response to a cashier who ends your transaction with the words, “Happy Mother’s Day!”?

I am a mother and I have a mother, but what about her?

The day celebrates women, varied and wonderful, so perhaps I could extend the greeting back to her, “Happy Mother’s Day to you, too.” In fact, that’s what I did… but I worried about it.

Do straightforward holidays exist? Isn’t there often a mingling of bittersweet and joy? We all know women who should have been mothers, but never had the chance. Women who miss their moms. People scarred by their mothers. Some of us think more about loss on the second Sunday of May than about celebration.

My sweet girl is twenty and my mom is over eighty, still the kind of woman who keeps me anchored to faith, who values the immaterial over things, who makes me feel loved. I hope I can pass on that legacy and offer that kind of love and that kind of faith to my own child.

This weekend we have the chance to celebrate women we love – women who have inspired or nurtured or protected or corrected us. I encourage you to reach out to a few women who might be surprised to hear from you. If we all do this, we can spread a lot of warmth.

If you are a woman who has loved others well, you have the qualities the world celebrates this weekend. We don’t just need mothers like you – the world needs women like you. We’re so blessed that you are here.

Thank you.

We love you.

The things others don’t know

Have you ever glanced around at a social gathering and noticed how easy it all seems for everyone else? The light chatter? The casual bite of cake?

Sometimes I people-gaze from the window of our car, envying the jogger who runs with ease, the elderly home owner who prunes a bush, the father who bikes with his child.

Those common activities are often impossible for me. Some days I’m overwhelmed with how difficult each minute is. Light chatter takes effort as I struggle to breathe. Pruning a bush presents dire consequences – the decision to do it seems too dangerous, so I stay inside when I long to be out. And that cake. Oh, the cake.

My daughter made me a chocolate cake a few days ago. I took a photo of a slice – it’s at the start of this post. Her cake was bakery-level-good. The aroma irresistible. The flavour… don’t get me started. How I longed to scarf down as much as I wanted whenever the cake came out of the fridge. I couldn’t, though. Cake is sweet, and sugar causes certain reactions in the body and dessert is a minefield, best consumed in small bits after a meal, if I want my heart to keep beating properly.

WHY?!

Why can’t my life be as easy as yours?

What’s that you say? Yours isn’t as easy as it seems? Oh. I guess I forgot for a moment. It was the cake. I got carried away.

Sometimes the things others don’t know build up and get rowdy inside of me. The symptoms. The fears. As I click into each call from work with practiced ease, “Thank you for calling, may I help you?” the caller at the other end has no idea what kind of a night I’ve just come through, what kind of a moment I’m having.

I know some of you live lives like this too. Each decision. Each smile. Each light laugh is accompanied by stabbing pain. Throbbing pressure in the head. Fear. A feeling of desperation for that other reality – the one no one is seeing – to end.

It’s hard. I can’t deny this. But where I think we’re wrong is our assumption that we’re alone in our interior world of struggle. Remember the first scene I described? The casual bite of cake and easy chatter? Look again.

I’m not the only one whose internal narrative is not happy. There’s a diabetic in the room who wants the cake more than I do. A young woman with an eating disorder is avoiding all the food. An older lady enjoys the cake, but dies a little with each bite as she thinks about unwanted weight gain she can’t get a handle on. Social anxiety stalks others, making them too queasy to eat.

If we peel back the socially approved glow of good times, we’ll see this stuff. Not everyone navigates struggle in social situations or everyday moments, but many do. If we unmute the secret part of people’s lives I think we’ll hear something akin to a symphony in the room.

In your better moments, keep your eyes and ears open. Notice the things others don’t say. No one wants to be a three-legged beagle surrounded by greyhounds. You don’t have to be. Those greyhounds are as flawed as you are; it’s just hard to see, because most of us hide our struggle.

In the moments when you feel alone, even after reaching out for help and sharing with someone else how hard your week has been, remember that there’s an Inside Man. It’s God. He’s in there with you. No one else experiences your pain, your fear or your thoughts all the time.

But God does.

Every chocolate cake moment is shared. He sees the mix of longing and terror that is gripping you. He knows. In a way that no one else can, He knows.

Savour that truth in your hardest moments. The things others don’t know are known. You are not alone.

My Favourite Things

Do you have a stash of treasures? Trinkets from childhood, fabric scraps from special outfits… precious, tangible reminders of a moment or a person you don’t want to forget? I do, and today I want to share a few with you.

I can hear your thoughts.

You’re right. It’s a collection of teeth. My daughter’s. I just couldn’t bring myself to throw them out as she lost them, and I now I have every one of her baby teeth in this silk-lined box given to me by a former student. Almost hidden by the teeth is a ring my father-in-law sent all the way from Peru – a wedding gift for me when I married his only child, Alexis. I could leave it there, but you may wonder about the right side of the box. Those are rocks. I’m sure all of you have taken a walk with a child, who noticed the most perfect stone, just lying on the ground. I kept the ones my daughter gave me. They’re in the box. The necklace next to them really goes along with the next photos…

Weeks after my grandma died, I found myself alone in her garage, going through boxes of things. To me, everything seemed precious. Have you experienced this? All of those dusty objects are suddenly your last chance to connect with a person you loved. Boxes of letters and clothing and photos become your only way to learn about this person and the past. I wanted to keep everything, lock it away, and go through it very slowly.

Since this wasn’t possible, the things I did keep became very important to me. Among them were a an old navy song book that belonged to my great uncle and a yellowed envelope containing hair (a bit creepy, I know, but also a tangible link to someone I never met – my grandmother’s mother.) The necklace in my silk-lined box belonged to this side of the family – one of a few treasures I keep to link me to them.

Gifts from dad were and are rare, which makes them special. Once or twice, dad flew from Canada to California to visit his family, and when he came back, he brought along something for me. I felt so excited when I saw my name on these things. A gift chosen just for me! By my dad! So special.

Now you’ve seen things I share with no one. Treasures. I keep my favourite things tucked away. Safe. Because they cannot be replaced and they are precious to me.

I’d like to leave you with a thought.

If you pry open the hand of God, you will find that He, also, has a treasure cradled in His palm. A favourite thing. Precious. Irreplaceable.

It’s you.


Consider the Tulips

Jesus seems far away, sometimes. Heaven is like my yellow tulips: hidden.

Winter lasts forever in Canada. It gets dreary. Eventually I reach a point where faith kicks in – a logical commitment to that which I know is true. One day, I know, when I open my bedroom window, I’ll feel warm air out there. Today, though, it’s cold.

There are hints, though, if I look for them, that spring is real and the world will not always be frozen. Here are some I found this afternoon:

Unidentified flowers out back.
Garlic, planted last fall.

I saved the best for last…

Snow drops – a surprise from when my aunt owned this property.

Faith in God is like this. Sometimes it just takes grit, because life is bleak. When it feels like this, I have a choice: I can get depressed and wonder why He feels so far away, or I can look for signs of His presence, remember moments when I felt Him, and read the promises He makes for me and for you in His word.

Some days I do better than others. Some weeks I leave Him waiting. I ignore His arms. Turn my face in other directions.

The wonderful message of the Bible is that He doesn’t get annoyed with how difficult I’m being and give up and go away. He waits. He watches. He reaches out. He sends His Son. He sees a chasm between us, and He builds a bridge.

This weekend we’re celebrating that bridge.

I’m so glad He didn’t just throw a stick in the water with an irritated frown, and then walk away.

He’s waiting. Arms outstretched.

Let’s go!


I had a tough week. Missed three days of work. Put together a ‘crisis’ playlist. What kind of week did you have? I hope yours was better than mine. In case it wasn’t, I want to share a few songs with you.

Breathe – Acoustic (I like the idea that each breath I take is given to me so that I can worship Him)

OK (It’s okay not to be okay)

Shelter (Piano and cello – I love this combination)

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